LRL Business Meeting

–by Elizabeth Lincoln

The NCSL Legislative Research Librarians business meeting was held on Wednesday morning.  Our agenda was not too long but it included several important elements:

  • NCSL LRL Chair Sabah Eltareb (CA) presented Eddie Weeks (TN) with the 2014 Legislative Staff Achievement Award.
  • Elizabeth Lincoln (MN) presented the 2014 Notable Documents Award winners.  Quite a few winning authors were present to accept their award.
  • Chair Sabah Eltareb (CA) became past-chair, Sonia Gavin (MT) became chair, and Catherine Wusterhausen (TX) became secretary.
  • And, finally, bylaws changes were discussed!  What’s a meeting without bylaws changes?

Communicate like a Rock Star!

by Betsy Haugen

Wednesday afternoon’s Legislative Staff University session, Communicate like a Rock Star! was very well attended. Communication expert, Sari del la Motte, engaged attendees with her funny and practical advice on how to talk to someone.

One thing she said early on was to throw out the Golden Rule – don’t treat others the way YOU want to be treated, instead treat them they way THEY want to be treated. By paying attention to the following 4 key areas, you will know how others want to be treated.

Eye contact:
Making eye contact with someone generally means you are willing to engage with them. She had many tips on why you would use eye contact carefully.

Body language:
Speak your listener’s body language. Less eye contact and authoritative body language require one approach and more eye contact and approachable body language signal something completely different.

Voice pattern:
Recognizing whether the situation calls for an authoritative tone of voice, or one that signals you are approachable or in “relationship” mode can be the key to a healthy conversation.

The number one communication tip for rock stars is to breathe properly; most people need work with improving their technique.

My take-away from the presentation was to look at what you can get rid of when communicating (such as bias and inappropriate props) and focus on gesturing, location and tone of voice to make your message more powerful.

Lunch with Andrew Zimmern

by Alyssa Novak

On Tuesday I attended the lunchtime seminar, Cooking Up Hunger Solutions: A Conversation with Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods America.

Food served included an array of fresh raw vegetables (including jicama!) with hummus, Minnesota wild rice hotdish, and bison tacos.

Andrew Zimmern, the main speaker, is a Minnesota TV personality known for his series, Bizarre Foods, on the Travel Channel.  In the series, Zimmern travels the world eating foods that many Americans would probably deem revolting. During the talk, Zimmern opened up to the audience about his troubled past of alcohol and drug abuse, which led him to homelessness on the streets of New York City. After attending rehab at Hazelden, he decided to stay in Minnesota to rebuild his life.

Zimmern spoke about how he uses his show, Bizarre Foods, as a platform to inspire change. He hopes that by watching his series, viewers will see the common threads of humanity shared in the rituals that surround food. He also hopes that his extreme eating will broaden his viewers’ palates and get them to try foods they wouldn’t ordinarily eat.

Photo of Andrew Zimmern

Cooking Up Hunger Solutions with Andrew Zimmern

Zimmern believes that America’s food issues will be addressed by a social movement that comes from the ground up. He is a big believer in public-private partnerships and finding entrepreneurial solutions to problems, due in part to his experience working with students in the Lewis Institute at Babson College. Some of the ideas he proposed to lawmakers for addressing America’s hunger problem included the removal of red tape that prevents food from being salvaged and redistributed to those in need, and the installation of re-circulating aquaculture systems in schools as both a teaching tool and source for food.

After the session, I had the great honor of meeting Andrew Zimmern in person to get an autographed copy of his book, Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Foods. I can’t wait to start cooking from it!

Alyssa (MN) talking with Andrew Zimmern about his food truck, AZ Canteen

Alyssa (MN) talking with Andrew Zimmern about his food truck, AZ Canteen

Two Legislative Staff Sessions: What Do Legislators Need, and Do Patrons Know What You Can Do?

-by Tracey Van Haaften

On Tuesday afternoon. I attended back-to-back sessions for legislative staff. The first was “Legislators Roundtable: What We Need and Value From Staff,” during which Rep. Barbara W. Ballard, of Kansas, Sen. Curtis S. Bramble of Utah, Sen. Bryan B. King of Arkansas, and Rep. John M. Mizuno of Hawaii shared their thoughts, experiences, and suggestions about working with legislative staff. They all agreed they rely on their staff for facts, honesty, integrity, and professionalism, and that they couldn’t do their job without us. It was both encouraging and informative, and reminded me again how proud I am to serve the Minnesota Legislature as a Librarian.

My second session program was “Building a Brand for Legislative Staff.” Bryant Howe from the Utah Legislature, Steve Miller from the Wisconsin Legislature, and Catherine Wusterhausen from the Texas Legislature presented their ideas and experiences in branding their libraries, both in a design sense (creating a recognizable logo and style guide), and through establishing and building your library’s reputation. What do your patrons think of when they see your logo, when they hear your name? DO they think of you? Does your logo differentiate you from other offices? Does your entire staff know what your service goals are, and work to display them in every transaction? Are outreach and branding objectives built in performance evaluation? These and other questions were a great introduction to thinking about advertising and evaluating your library’s brand identity.

Panel on Election Recount Integrity

-by Peder Garnaas-Halvorson

On Tuesday I attended a session on election recount integrity. The panelists were Mark Halvorson (founder of Citizens for Election Integrity) and Jason Torchinsky (a lawyer who represents candidates in recounts), Minnesota Senator Katie Sieben was the moderator. The session addressed many issues concerning best practices for recounts, especially hand counting vs. machine counting, the importance of having a paper trail even with electronic polling stations, and the conditions necessary for a candidate to call for a recount or for an automatic recount to take place. They mentioned many factors that could change election results in a recount such as machine counting errors, the inclusion of absentee ballots that had erroneously been rejected, and even misplaced boxes of ballots that had not been counted. The panelists also discussed some Minnesota-specific laws and practices including the use of paper ballots and optical scanners, a .25% or less victory margin required for calling a statewide recount, mandatory hand counting of ballots in a recount, and the specifics of the recount in the 2008 U.S. Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. Halvorson and Torchinsky had some disagreements on best practices and polling methods, but both agreed that recounts are a complicated process that need to be taken seriously in order to establish citizens’ trust in election results.

A New Education Revolution

by Alyssa Novak

On Tuesday afternoon I attended the NCSL General Session entitled, A New Education Revolution, with keynote speaker Sir Ken Robinson.

Sir Ken Robinson’s talk was preceded by a conference welcome from representatives of the Minnesota Legislature, Senate President Sandra Pappas and House Speaker Paul Thissen, and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, as well as a special video welcome message from Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion.

Photo of NCSL opening session

Minnesota Senate President Sandra Pappas and Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen welcoming NCSL Summit Attendees to Minnesota

Photo of Garrison Keillor on video screen

Special video welcome message from Garrison Keillor

Sir Ken Robinson, an expert in creativity and education, is widely known for his TEDTalk, “Do schools kill creativity?”

Photo of Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson during NCSL General Session

In his dry and humorous style, Robinson prodded the audience to consider how and why children grow out of creativity. He pointed out that children are quick to identify themselves as creative, whereas adults rarely do. He hypothesized that the structure of the current educational system may be a factor that contributes to this societal problem.

Robinson shared the following video with the audience as a prime example of how educational systems can unintentionally squash kids’ natural creativity:

Throughout the session, Robinson succeeded in having the entire audience in stitches, while simultaneously inspiring them to think critically about issues in today’s educational systems.

During the talk, Robinson also shamelessly plugged the latest edition of his book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.

I will definitely be adding it to my long list of books to check out!

First Day – Check-In

-by Tracey Van Haaften

Volunteer checks in.

Checking in!

Today was my first day volunteering at my first ever NCSL Summit. It was a quiet day for checking in (I handed out lanyards and programs) but the attendees who did check in were from all over the world. I was able to meet and greet legislators and staff from Canada, Kenya, Australia, Germany, and South Africa (to name a few), as well as from states all across the U.S. I’m looking forward to tomorrow with volunteering, attending sessions, and Mill City in the plan. My feet aren’t so sure, but I think we’ll all be fine.